20 Feet From Stardom: Pain and Refracted Glory
Morgan Neville’s 20 Feet From Stardom brings light to that visible but invisible maker of music: the backup singer. As we follow the careers of singers from the 1960s onward, we see the pleasure and pain that comes of lending your talents to music that becomes famous while only sometimes crediting your work. Given the stories of the backup singers,* this could have been a depressing catalog, but the film is celebratory and hopeful; still, it left me wondering how a woman would have captured the dismissal of such talented women.**
The verdict: Recommended
Cost: Netflix monthly fee ($8.99)
Where watched: at home
*While Darlene Love’s story starts as gaspingly awful, she seems to have come out of it okay. Whereas Claudia Lennear’s career trajectory caused both myself and the boyfriend (who was only partially watching) to make audible noises of protest.
**”There can be only one Aretha, only one Whitney.” A lot of backup singers swinging for stardom ran into that sentiment. But why can there only be one woman, when there can be so many men?
- Do you think we’re yet past the “there can only be one” sentiment when it comes to women artists?
- Which was your favorite story?
Favorite IMDB trivia item:
The film has been compared to the similarly themed book The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret, which chronicles the stories of uncredited studio musicians.
(Pssst. It’s also a 2008 documentary: The Wrecking Crew!)